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Prison transfers: the investigation

On Monday, October 25, the CBC News Investigative Unit reports on prisoner transfers - Canadians who have been imprisoned internationally, and who apply to the Canadian government requesting to serve their time in Canada.

This story first came to us from Shannon Paige, the girlfriend of a young Canadian man imprisoned in the United States.  Shannon couldn't figure out why her boyfriend, Robert Ashley Williams, was denied a transfer back to Canada when his Canadian co-accused, Jeremy Cyopeck, was approved. Same crime, same sentence, but one was transferred back to Canada to serve out his sentence here, the other was not. Shannon wanted to know why. 

We started to look at documents we received through our Access to Information requests. Since the Conservative Party came to power in 2006, the Public Safety Minister has been denying offender transfers back to Canada in rates ranging from 14 to 62 percent.

Back when the Liberals were in power, from 1998 to 2005, not one person was denied.

We were surprised to discover that Canadian offenders who are denied a transfer end up with no Canadian criminal record on their file.  Without a transfer, their criminal record stays in the U.S., and is not found through a regular Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) police check.  Critics we talked to said it was better for public safety to have prisoners transferred back to Canada, because that way, they have a Canadian criminal record that is easily found, and they are paroled here. 

But the Conservatives don't deny all prisoner transfers, and many people who talked to us felt that these denials seemed arbitrary.  White-collar criminals like David Radler, Conrad Black's former business partner who pleaded guilty to mail fraud in a 32-million dollar fraud scheme, are seemingly fast-tracked and approved.  Radler was transferred back to Canada and paroled within months.

And Jeremy Cyopeck, who committed the same crime and received the same sentence as Williams, was transferred back to Canada and is now out on parole, with a full-time job.  

And the person who started us on this journey, Robert Ashley Williams?  Williams is still in the United States, and still waiting.

See our in-depth feature "Prison Transfer Investigation" for the full video, text story and other information.

If you have more information on this story, or other investigative tips to pass on, please email